Youth at the heart of Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Silicon Valley visit
There is valuable prominence for Saudi Arabia in having closer ties with major US technology companies
There is valuable prominence for Saudi Arabia in having closer ties with major US technology companies. Facebook, Google, Oracle, Intel, IBM, Apple, Adobe, Cisco and others are all in Silicon Valley. NASA and a large number of academic centers specializing in technology are also present in Northern California.
Days before the California trip by Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said: “The deputy crown prince plans to benefit from the latest discoveries present in Silicon Valley, and to speak with a number of CEOs to use their discoveries in implementing Saudi Vision 2030.” Jubeir’s comment goes to the heart of Prince Mohammed’s visit to the US west coast.
By meeting tech companies, the prince is the kingdom’s “first marketer” by attracting investment capital and seeking a diversification of sources of income in a concrete and quick manner. His visit to Northern California is proving that technology requirements that target youths are key to Saudi Arabia’s ambitious reforms. Some announcements have come out of San Francisco, while others are expected soon.
In order to realize Saudi Vision 2030, Silicon Valley technology offers the kingdom a number of platforms and remedies to not only help push the National Transformation Program (NTP) along, but also to make tech-savvy Saudi youths a part of the effort.
Specifically, the kingdom wants to establish a high-tech sector as part of the Vision 2030 economic diversification strategy. Prince Mohammed seeks to establish “a Saudi society of IT technicians” by enlisting the help of experts from US technology companies.
The point is to corral the potential talent of Saudi youths, who are some of the most impressive users of social media in the world, and give them employment. Innovation from Saudi Arabia will be the mantra
According to Vision 2030, technology will increase Saudi investments in, and lead to, the digital economy. The kingdom already has a strong information and communications technology sector that created 60,000 jobs. Saudi social media is renowned for its connectivity.
The kingdom’s partnership with Silicon Valley’s private sector aims to develop the telecommunications and IT infrastructure, especially high-speed broadband. The kingdom’s specific goal is to exceed 90 percent housing coverage in densely populated cities, and 66 percent in other urban zones. The Saudis also intend to support local investments in the telecommunications and IT sectors through agreements with Silicon Valley companies.
The kingdom seeks to increase Saudi employee skills and development through strategic alliances and partnership between industry leaders and academia to focus on boosting cloud computing, virtualization and 3-D printing. Other notable efforts in Saudi Arabia’s future include perhaps advanced e-solutions, cyber-security and utilization of Big Data.
The objective is to create a qualified workforce capable of helping the kingdom achieve its 2030 goal with sustainable growth for years to come. Clearly, Prince Mohammed’s technology effort in San Francisco is about Saudi youth, and ultimately future generations.
Prince Mohammed’s visit to Northern California is proving that technology requirements that target youths are key to Saudi Arabia’s ambitious reformsDr. Theodore Karasik
Education platforms based on innovative approaches are also noteworthy. The Khan Academy, supported by Bill Gates, is an example of a quick educational learning platform for Saudi youths, as demonstrated by Prince Mohammed’s meeting with the Khan Academy’s founder.
Here, a ready-made package of educational video lectures serves as an example of complimentary methods of education besides Saudi universities, and private technical and vocational institutions. This type of education is to fill gaps quickly in the emerging NTP workforce.
It is worth mentioning entertainment, given that technology is a prime driver of content delivery. The prince’s meeting with Six Flags CEO John Duffey is a strong signal that unique entertainment facilities will be built in the kingdom, designed for families and children.
Duffey said: “We share Saudi Arabia’s vision of bringing entertainment to the country. We share the same vision with… Prince Mohammed… and are prepared to providing multiple options in a bid to translate that vision into reality.”
Under Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is planning to provide “land suitable for cultural and entertainment projects. Talented writers, authors and directors will be supported.” Those future products will be targeting Saudi youths.
Prince Mohammed’s San Francisco visit targeted key components to achieve Vision 2030 by focusing on how technology plays a key role in the kingdom’s future. Youth calculates into that future based on a foundation for innovation in Saudi Arabia, with the help of US technology giants. In the future, the bond between Silicon Valley and the kingdom will only grow more robust with youthful Saudi vigor.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans. He tweets @tkarasik